Gold imitation of a Byzantine coin found in China

From the Astana cemetery, near Turfan, north-west China, 6th century AD

A treasured coin from the west

Gold imitations of Byzantine solidi have been found at various sites in China, mostly in the tombs of wealthy people in northern China, buried between the fourth and eighth centuries AD. It is likely that the coins were treasured prestige items of the rich.

Gold coins are mentioned in written documents found in the tombs of the Astana cemetery. For example, burial lists of the mid-sixth to mid-seventh centuries outlining the contents of the tomb often refer specifically to gold coins. Despite this, actual gold coins are not often found in the tombs, so it may be that the lists were wishful thinking.

It seems that the practice of including real or imagined gold coins in tombs was only common for about one hundred years as earlier documents refer to gold by weight rather than to coins, and later documents simply list 'sufficient gold and silver'.

Find in the collection online

More information


F. Thierry and C. Morrisson, 'Sur les monnaies byzantines trouvées en Chine', Revue Numismatique-1, 6th series, 36 (1994), pp. 109-45

H. Wang, 'The Stein collection of coins from Chinese Central Asia' in Studies in Silk Road coins a-1 (Kamakura, Institute of Silk Road Studies, 1997), pp. 187-99

F. Thierry, 'Sur les monnaies sassanides trouvées en Chine', Res Orientales, 5 (1993), pp. 89-139

M.A. Stein, Innermost Asia: detailed repor, 4 vols. (Oxford, 1928, reprinted New Delhi, 1981)


Diameter: 16.000 mm
Weight: 0.850 g

Museum number

CM BM Stein [IA.XII.c.1]


Marc Aurel Stein Collection


Find in the collection online

Related objects

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore